Later this morning, I will be running, biking and swimming for about an hour and a half in a little event my friend Susan calls “Just Tri It! (Backwards)”.
The idea is threefold. #1. to honor and remember her sister Julie Read Marsh who died of melanoma ten years ago at the age of 29. #2. to raise money for a scholarship in her name. #3. to compel common folk (read: not super athletes) to get out of their comfort zone and try. Go fast, go slow, go sideways. Susan could not care less. What she wants is the people in her life to live with zest, to go further than they’ve gone before, to look something they fear square in the face and win the staring contest. I just love that. And I am IN 100%.
As fate would have it, Susan and I have exactly a ten year history, having met 6 months after Julie died and 4 months before my father followed suit – again at the hand of that insidious monster we call cancer. I’m confident we were broken versions of ourselves then. We had both stared unblinkingly, I swear, but as it sometimes does, cancer won the contest (because it does not have eyelids, which seems unfair.) As young warriors of life, it felt wrong to us in every way. We were powerless, really, and that. is. not. fun. What we needed, dammit, was another monster to stare down, or run the risk of losing ourselves completely to grief and anger. One night in the spring of 2002, at book club, we decided to start running. Perhaps the monster version of this decision is Oscar the Grouch, but there it is. We decided to take up running, world, and we were not aiming small, we signed up for a half marathon!
That’s how it began. And later today, I am giving my fear of cancer another one-two punch. I can’t stop cancer from taking lives. But I can stop it from taking other important things away from me- courage, determination, integrity, hope. I’ll be thinking of that today when it gets difficult out there on the course. And it will. As I sometimes do on the hills, I make up a cadence and chant it as I run. Today I will be chanting “Because I can. Because I can. Because I can.” And I never forget that my father – can’t.
Thank you Susan. For standing next to me with a sword and a shield. As always.